The Medicaid Infrastructure Grant (MIG) is fully funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Florida was initially awarded the MIG in 2006, and has received the award each year since. Congress did not renew the program beyond 2011, so the grant will end December 31st of this year.
The purpose of the MIG was to make Medicaid Buy-In a reality in every MIG state. However, due to the severe budgetary constraints in Florida, this was not accomplished. MIG is also utilized to promote competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities through strengethening the state’s infrastructure, including providing training for supported employment professionals, outreach, networking, and consortium building. Accordingly, many significant accomplishments were made throughout the MIG years in Florida, as specified below.
First and foremost, there were only 2,428 people with disabilities served by the Agency who were working in 2004. By the end of 2006, after the first year of MIG, more than 4,600 people with disabilities served by the Agency were competitively employed. This number has remained stable since then with the number employed currently at just over 4,400.
Florida’s MIG staff (currently five full time OPS staff) has continued its efforts to improve the quality of supported employment services offered by the Agency. The staff has focused on the successful creation of a new SE certification course with updated curriculum and practicum requirements. In addition to writing a new pre-service course for Supported Employment providers, MIG staff also began teaching the FDIC Money Smart course statewide to increase the financial literacy of people with disabilities.
One MIG staff has been employed as an FTE by the state strengthening the state’s infrastructure, which has been the major purpose of the MIG. Further integration of MIG staff to full time Agency staff will work to strengthen the employment expertise within the Agency, as the MIG intended, and as is needed to further improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Florida. The MIG staff has “touched” more than 10,000 people with important, often critical, information about working and maintaining necessary health care benefits, maximizing earnings, and becoming more confident that competitive employment is and should have always been an expectation for all.
The Supported Employment Certification courses will be offered online by the Agency at no charge in 2012. This will include the Best Practices of Supported Employment (Part 1) and the Introduction to Social Security Work Incentives (Part 2). There may not be classroom SE certification trainings available after 2011. Area offices are continuing to offer the SE and SSWI Pre-Service classroom sessions through December 2011.
The MIG has provided funding to study and improve the transportation systems for people with disabilities statewide, to conduct workshops by national experts on some of the most fruitful work incentives offered by SSA, such as PASS, and to expand the knowledge base of both providers and self advocates regarding employment barriers and how to overcome them. MIG has also strengthened the Agency’s connection with the private sector and employers statewide through job opportunity consortiums, business leadership networks, and by each area office becoming a member of the local chamber of commerce.
The evidence of this connection to the private sector and employers was made clear at the Agency’s Employment Conference held in Orlando in September as a kick off of the upcoming Disability Employment Awareness Month or “DEAM” (which is the month of October.) A large variety of employers attended the conference and participated in a variety of breakout sessions throughout the day, with one employer providing the key note address the first evening, Shannon Offord of DirectEmployers.
The inspirational afternoon key note address, “Employment: You must be Prepared for a Very Rocky Road,” was presented by Sarah Vazquez, a self advocate, support coordinator and author living and working in New Jersey.
Representatives from local Business Leadership Networks attended and educated the conference attendees about the BLN and what it can do to improve the lives of people with disabilities who wish to work. Sessions were conducted by the Able Trust, as well as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Bridges, Department of Children and Family Services, Project SEARCH, Florida Association of Assistive Services Technology (FAAST), AmeriCorps/VISTA, YouthBuild, Keeton Consulting, Inc., the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida, Department of Elder Affairs, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, Disability Rights Florida, Florida APSE, and the Social Security Administration.
The MIG has offered states the opportunity to request a no cost extension of funds remaining unused and unobligated at the end of 2011. If granted, the no cost extension could allow for the unused funds to be spent by the Agency to complete the MIG’s objectives and close out the program through December 2012. The Agency is currently drafting the request for no cost extension, and if granted, will make use of all remaining MIG funds during 2012. The Agency will not know if the request will be granted until November or December of 2011.